Buttonwood Park Zoo Opens its First Ever Red Panda Habitat

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is excited to announce that the long awaited red panda habitat will be open to the public beginning Friday, May 3, 2019. The habitat will be home to the Zoo’s first ever red panda, Jacob, who was born on June 20, 2017 at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Jacob arrived at the Buttonwood Park Zoo in the summer of 2018 and has been bonding with his caretakers behind the scenes.

“Over the last five years the Buttonwood Park Zoo has been committed to saving threatened and endangered species around the world“, said Buttonwood Park Zoo Executive Director, Keith Lovett. “The new red panda habitat is an example of how we are working at the zoo to establish captive insurance populations while also supporting conservation work in Asia for this endangered species”

Red pandas, which are native to Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar and Nepal, are listed as Endangered. They are faced with threats from habitat loss, illegal hunting, trapping and poaching. The Buttonwood Park Zoo, a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is actively participating in the Species Survival Plan for red pandas. Based on a recommendation from this plan, Jacob will soon be joined by a female and the pandas will serve as ambassadors for their species. There are fewer than 10,000 red pandas living in the wild today with less than 220 in AZA accredited institutions. The Zoo will partner with conservation based organizations to help save this species in the wild.

Red pandas live in high-altitude temperate forests with bamboo understories. Primarily bamboo eaters, red pandas need to eat 20-30% of their body weight each day due to the high amount of indigestible fiber present in bamboo. Adult red pandas typically weigh around 8 -14 pounds. In human care, red pandas can live up to 20 years. Thanks to the success of the Zoo’s new Community Bamboo Program, we have been able to provide various species of bamboo for many of our animals to enjoy by way of harvesting it from private landowners throughout the community. Our animals can consume over 200 pounds of vegetation daily.

The construction of this red panda habitat was made possible through the generous support of the City of New Bedford, the Buttonwood Park Zoological Society, and Allan and Priscilla Ditchfield. Members and zoo supporters contributed to the habitat through social media fundraising campaigns. Additionally, local companies supported the project with donations of time, talent and resources. With sincere appreciation the Buttonwood Park Zoo would like to thank: Advance Air & Heat Company, Care Free Homes, Inc., City of New Bedford DFFM and DPI, Fernandes Masonry, Inc., Simmons Concrete Construction and Mount Vernon Group Architects for their work that made this opening possible.

This is the 4th project to be completed under the Zoo’s $25 million Master Plan. To date, the Zoo has completed the following projects: expansion of the Zoo’s elephant yard, Rainforests, Rivers & Reefs, Charlie’s Nature Play and now the Red Panda habitat.  Other projects in line for completion and supported by the City of New Bedford and private donors are the Nature Connection Education Center and the Wildlife Ambassador building.

“This new exhibit is another exciting example of the Buttonwood Park Zoo’s continued growth, and an affirmation of its commitment to the highest standards,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell.